Broadneck's season-long scoring woes almost returned to haunt the Bruins last night.
But just when it seemed that top-seeded North County had wriggled off the hook, Rich Aftoora scored his second goal of the game to give No. 3 Broadneck a 2-1 victory in the Region IV, 4A soccer final at North County.
Aftoora collected his own rebounding shot off the chest of North County's Jody Haislip and hammered a low, 7-yard shot to the left of Knights goalie Jesse Haislip at 15 minutes, 58 seconds of the second half.
"It just came off his [Haislip's] chest and the inside post was open," said Aftoora, a senior striker who had gotten Broadneck off to a 1-0 lead with his goal off Matt Weimer's feed early in the first half.
There were two major scares in the waning minutes, but Broadneck (8-2-4) had earned its first regional title since joining the 4A ranks in 1987.
The Bruins will play host to the winner of last night's Dulaney-Thomas Wooten game in the state semifinal Saturday. The time is still to be determined.
"I think that one of the worst things that could have happened to us was scoring so early," Bruins coach Kevin McMullen said. "North County took it to us the rest of the first half. We got out of our game and North County had a great, great half, but surprisingly, once it got to be even, we got back to our game."
North County (12-2) had evened the score after Broadneck's Jarett Smith was whistled for pushing Mike Hoskins in the box. Jody Haislip then punched the penalty kick low and to the left of diving Bruins keeper Sean Tettemer with 2:52 gone in the second half.
Then, "Patience, persistence and poise came through for us as it has all season," said Tettemer (five saves). "We got a good head of steam after that goal, and just kept going."
Aftoora said: "I think it's more of a pickup when they [opponents] score. We play well from behind, when the pressure is on."
Tettemer's three quick saves preserved the tie until Aftoora's second goal, then all Broadneck really needed was fullback Kevin Chapman's leaping kick-save with 10:30 left. Jody Haislip's direct kick from 20 yards sailed over the bar shortly before the end.
At times this season, Broadneck seemed to play just well enough to avoid a loss -- it had four straight scoreless ties at one point.
But McMullen was not discouraged.
"We knew going into the season that we had a strong group, a special group," he said. "It was just a matter of getting the right pieces in the right spots. Our defense was steady the whole year, and even though we weren't scoring, we've still only lost two games this year."
North County had lost only to three-time defending regional champion Severna Park (1-0) in its first season, but coach Steve Malone took last night's defeat in stride.
"We had a great year, and I thought the kids did a good job last night," he said. "I said before the season that Broadneck was the best team -- and I said last week that they would beat Severna Park in the regionals."